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Autism & Aspergers

Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior. Although the specific etiology of autism is unknown, many researchers suspect that autism results from genetically mediated vulnerabilities to environmental triggers. Some estimate that autism occurs in as many as one United States child in 166, however the National Institute of Mental Health gives a more conservative estimate of one in 1000. For families that already have one autistic child, the odds of a second autistic child may be as high as one in twenty. Autism may not be physiologically obvious. A complete physical and neurological evaluation will typically be part of diagnosing autism. By definition, autism must manifest delays in "social interaction, language as used in social communication, or symbolic or imaginative play," with "onset prior to age 3 years", according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Asperger syndrome, also called Asperger's syndrome, AS, or the more common shorthand Asperger's, is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders (autism is another), and is commonly referred to as a form of high-functioning autism. In very broad terms, individuals with Asperger's have normal or above average intellectual capacity, with atypical or poorly developed social skills often with emotional/social development or integration happening later than usual as a result. The term "Asperger's syndrome" was coined by Lorna Wing in a 1981 medical paper. She named the syndrome after Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist and pediatrician who himself had used the term autistic psychopathy.

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